U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called upon major energy drink companies to quit allowing their logos to be used on toys. Blumenthal compared the tactic to strategies tobacco companies once used to market to children.
At a state Capitol press conference, Blumenthal named energy drink makers Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster. The companies have allowed their logos to be printed on toys. Blumenthal displayed a remote control toy boat with the Rockstar energy drink logo and a remote control helicopter with Red Bull decals.
“They are plainly a pitch to children that should alarm parents,” Blumenthal said.
The concern is that the energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients considered dangerous for consumption by children. Blumenthal said the drinks have been linked to high blood pressure, liver damage, kidney failure, and other ailments in kids.
“They should not be marketed to anyone under the age of 18,” he said. “Whether adults can drink them healthily certainly is open to debate.”
Blumenthal said the companies told the Senate Commerce Committee they would not market their products to kids under the age of 12. He said the toys are a clear violation of that agreement. He said he and other lawmakers have written to the Food and Drug Administration asking it to review its regulation of energy drinks.
“This kind of marketing tactic has very much the feel of the tobacco industry, when they were targeting children and at first denied it, then admitted it and refused to change their practices,” he said.
Jennifer Harris, director of Marketing Initiatives at the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, agreed. She said the goal of marketing on toys is to create positive associations for kids so when they can buy products on their own, they remember the energy drink brands.
It is “a strategy that the tobacco companies used for a long time with things like Joe Camel. That’s a very deliberate marketing strategy,” she said referring to the cartoon camel on a pack of cigarettes.
The energy drink companies did not immediately return requests for comment.
In the meantime, Blumenthal advised parents to watch what toys they buy this holiday season to avoid buying gifts that market energy drinks to kids.